MORE THAN A NAME
On July 1, 2021 Luke and Bernardine got married, so to speak. That is, St. Luke Catholic Church in River Forest and St. Bernardine Catholic Church in Forest Park became united as one parish as part of the consolidating process in the Catholic Archdiocese called Renew My Church.
This summer, the new “couple” chose a hyphenated name, St. Luke and St. Bernardine Parish, even though doing so went against Archdiocesan guidelines. The story of how that happened reveals that the Catholics in Forest Park and River Forest felt empowered to assert their will and that the men at the top of the hierarchy were willing to listen.
FIRST UNITED CLOSES
The members of First United Church of Christ worshipped for the last time in the building at 1000 Elgin which they used to own. It’s the familiar story of mainline churches declining in membership and therefore income, closing, and selling their property to what I will call “entrepreneurial” pastors.
REV. TEAGUE BECOMES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PTMAN
Rev. Bill Teague, the pastor of Hope Tabernacle Church which worships in the white stucco building on Dixon Street, now serves as the Executive Director of Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network and one of his parishioners, Dana Williams, is the nonprofit’s business manager.
In 2021 almost no one thought that online worship would become the new normal. Now that COVID restrictions have loosened up, many members have returned to in person worship, but not all of them. Some have become used to “going to church” in their pajamas. Online worship seems to here to stay.
RENEW MY KITCHEN
Renew My Kitchen is more than a fundraiser like so many church cookbooks have been through the years. When St. Bernardine and St. Luke got “married,” the members realized that the two congregations had different personalities and cultures. The cookbook is one of the creative efforts of two different churches in two different communities to make the marriage work.
PASTOR PONGSAK RETIRES
Rev. Dr. Pongsak Limthongviratn retired from both his full-time job as Director of Asian Ministry at the Evangelical Lutheran Church headquarters in Chicago and his role as the part time pastor of St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church for the last 30 years.
JEFF RUSSEL IN SEMINARY
Jeff Russell is the owner of Millionaire Barber Shop on Beloit Avenue, just two doors from the Park entrance on Harrison Street. He has been doing ministry as a lay minister for many years, even leading worship in his barbershop for a time. Last year, he decided that he was being called to full time ministry and is attending classes in the seminary with the goal of becoming an ordained minister.
ST. PAUL THAI CHURCH — TRULY MULTI-CULTURAL
While the cultural foundation of St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church is still Thai, the congregation has defied sociological trends by becoming truly multi-cultural. Three of the members of the praise team are Black and the Senior Pastor — who is assisted by a retired white pastor, a Thai lay minister, and a Thai intern — is white. The whole service is translated into English when the speakers are Thai and into Thai when they are “farang,” i.e. Western.
LIVING WORD — TRULY MEGA
I’ll bet that many Forest Park residents don’t even know where Living Word Christian Center meets for worship, but every Sunday thousands of people from all over the Chicago metro area meet for worship in the state-of-the-art sanctuary, located in the south portion of the Forest Park Mall on Roosevelt Road, which the mega-church’s pastor owns.
That American culture is becoming increasingly secular isn’t exactly news. Ask members of the First United Church of Christ.
The trend is documented in Forest Park. Of the 33 displays in the front yards on Circle, Elgin and Thomas south of the Eisenhower, 32 had non-religious figures like Santa, reindeer, snowmen and candy canes. Ten had manger scenes but nine of those also had a Santa or a snowman or some non-religious holiday symbol.